“The Counselor” is directed by Ridley Scott and stars Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, and Brad Pitt.
This film seemed to have all the potential in the world. It made my list of most anticipated to see this Fall. Unfortunately, it lets a great cast in front of and behind the camera go to waste. The plot revolves around an attorney (Fassbender) who gets involved in the brutal world of drug trafficking. One of the first problems, in my opinion, is that Fassbender’s character is known simply as “counselor.” You never actually get a name. The movie opens with him and his naïve wife to be (Cruz) having some between the sheets fun. The tone of the entire movie is set here. Women, sex. And they will be the undoing of you.
Cormac McCarthy is one of our most praised crime writers. I’ve described his accolades in an earlier piece. It is kind of hard to believe he wrote this film. Ironically, of several screenplays he has written over the years, this is the first to actually be produced. When Fassbender decides to invest in a drug deal, (which by the way, is never really explained clearly on why he feels the need, outside of “hey, easy money) he goes to an associate named Reiner, played by Javier Bardem. He plays an eccentric drug kingpin who also dabbles in clubs. Bardem tries to have as much fun as possible, but his character is reduced to dialogue about the “secrets” of women and the relationship of men to them. Fassbender, one of the up and coming powerhouse actors, is relegated to a confused, awkward presence. The guy never seems to fit in with his dialogue or the plot. It is a great disservice, considering another Fassbender film, “12 Years a Slave” is earning him rave reviews. In the midst of all this, Penelope Cruz plays his wife, who somehow, has zero idea of what is going on around her.
Rounding out the cast is Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt. Diaz plays Malkina, the girlfriend of Bardem’s character. She is a hyper sexual force, who seems to be the epitome of a femme fatale, although a very clichéd one. Diaz attempts to handle this role as best she could. Again, the weak writing and questionable direction don’t allow her much. She actually has one of the film’s bizarre scenes. She has sex with a car. You read that right. She somehow has sex with a car, as Bardem comically watches. When Bardem’s character describes this happening, he does present some amusing imagery and comparisons. Pitt plays Westray, a shady middleman. Of this all star cast, I think Pitt is the most effective. He doesn’t have as much screen time, but at least his dialogue makes you say “alright, this guy knows what he’s talking about.” It works. Throughout this whole movie, there are countless scenes of lengthy dialogue revolving around life, women, death, greed, etc. There are some moments of meaningful words, but too many that come off like that one person who tries to sound intellectual, and thinks they are actually delivering complex thoughts. In actuality, it is just nonsense.
Overall, this film is decent at best. It tries to deliver a compelling crime thriller with a sexual edge, but there are only a few entertaining or worthwhile scenes. With such a high powered cast and crew, it is nothing short of a letdown.
RATING: 2 stars